Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Blizzard is heading right towards their first privacy PR disaster
More and more news appear on Blizzard's RealID system, and things are starting to turn ugly: Blizzard announced that in the future all official forums would display your real name instead of your character name, and some clever hacks found out that addons can be programmed to display the real name of other WoW players without them having given you permission or friending you.
Protests are getting louder, Pangoria deleted his WoW posts on his blog in protest, and somebody even made a RealIDiots protest site. The countdown has started until something really bad happens, like somebody with a distinctive real name pissing somebody else off in game and then getting a visit from somebody armed with Google and a baseball bat. Or sexual harassment of girls whose cover of using a male character has been blown.
Social networks using real names can work, but the history of Facebook shows that one fundamental rule for these networks is that you can't have people signing up with some level of presumption of privacy, and then withdraw that privacy protection later. Thus it would be okay for Blizzard to lets say release their next MMO game with a RealID system and inform everybody that their real name will be used in that game. It is *not* okay to let people play for nearly 6 years under anonymity, and then strip that anonymity away. Even if the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory predicts that stripping people of their anonymity will make them behave better.